Selena Gomez is facing a backlash and controversy with her first major producing project “13 Reasons Why.” The teen drama depicting teen suicide has often been described by Gomez’ as her “passion project” since she can sympathize with low-self-esteem and other mental health issues.
What Gomez didn’t count on is that her “passion project” though true to the book by the same name by author Jay Anchor has not been well received by teen suicide professionals, mental health specialists and numerous school districts.
The series focuses on teens Hannah Baker who commits suicide and Clay Jensen who she sends clues in cassette tapes as to the 13 reasons/people she holds responsible for her death.
The backlash was swift and quick when the Netflix 13-episodes Web TV series launched at the end of March and doesn’t show signs of abating. The 2007 book was to be made into a movie starring Gomez but instead morphed into a web series she executive produced along with her mother Mandy Teefey.
The series has it all as far as teen drama: bullying, sexual assault, slut-shaming, mean girls, revenge porn, asshole guys. But it is the final episode with the graphic depiction of the leading female character’s suicide that has added to the controversy – no surprise the series is currently the most tweeted about show with 11M tweets.
While Gomez should be credited for expanding her talent offerings in light of numerous cancelled concerts and a stalled-to-non-existent acting career, she should have thought of her project choice a little more and here’s why:
- Mental health experts do not like the lack of discussion around underlying mental illness that is linked to 90 percent of suicides.
- The web series content does not adhere to accepted media guidelines to reduce “copycat suicides.”
- Universal condemnation of the graphic suicide scene as unnecessary.
- National Association of School Psychologists has recommended “vulnerable youth” not watch as they may develop “revenge fantasies” as a justification for suicide.
- Numerous school districts here and in the UK have sent letters to parents informing them of the potential risks if kids watch the series. Others have noted an increase in self-harming behavior among kids that already have at-risk-for suicide behavior.
Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention stated it was not a good idea to be showing explicit, specific images of the suicide taking place. “The more detailed and the more specific and lurid it is, in some ways, the more worrisome the content.”
New Zealand created a rating guide for the showing requiring anyone under the age of 18 to watch only if accompanied by an adult.
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